Hands Across The Water
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Buccellato/Somers (colors)
Gambit rescues Yukio from the Phalanx, while Storm faces the remaining members. They explain to her that they were once human, but sacrificed their humanity in order to keep the human gene pool pure. Yukio tricks the Phalanx into thinking that she wants to be assimilated, while Gambit uses his powers to charge up a giant piece of equipment. The explosion destroys the Phalanx members. Their battle is being observed by Steven Lang and Cameron Hodge, two former human enemies of the X-Men who have joined the Phalanx. Douglas Ramsey, a former New Mutant, is overseeing the creation of new Phalanx members, but is fighting against his programming. Meanwhile at the X-Men’s mansion, Emma Frost awakes inside Iceman’s body.
This is the first full appearance of “Douglock”, an amalgam of two former New Mutants characters, Douglas Ramsey and Warlock. This is the character Marvel considered a laughably bad idea when suggested by a fan in an early X-Force letters page. I don’t know if the editors were being sarcastic because they already had plans for this character, or if they were just being jerks.
Steven Lang is re-introduced as a Phalanx member. He fought the X-Men during the early Claremont issues, and was rescued from a mental hospital by a mysterious group during the early Lobdell issues. As a kid, I was thrilled to see one of those ominous, yet brief, subplot scenes actually resolved.
Jubilee tells Banshee that after seeing what’s happened to Iceman and Wolverine, she doesn’t know if she’s ready to be an X-Man. Banshee thinks that with Professor Xavier spending more time studying the Legacy Virus, someone should be concentrating on the mutant children. All of this is done to set up the Generation X series.
I Love the ‘90s
Bob Harras is credited as “Bobbit Harras” on the title page.
Gambit speaks while underwater on page 3. His word balloons have an odd design, but I’m not sure what they’re supposed to indicate.
It’s another action-heavy issue, which really relies on Madureira’s pencils to work. As an introduction to the Phalanx, it’s not that bad, but you can see the creators already backtracking before the story’s over. The Phalanx make a big deal about being able to counter any mutant’s power, yet they’re still defeated by a giant explosion caused by Gambit. If they’re immune to Gambit’s power, then it shouldn’t matter how large the explosion is, they should still survive it. Lobdell works some characterization into the action by emphasizing Storms’ respect for life and her reluctance to kill the Phalanx. This is actually Lobdell’s best treatment of Storm yet; introducing the idea that if the X-Men are pledged to protect all life, then the Phalanx might have to be considered living, also. It’s a nice bit of moral ambiguity that brings more than just mindless action to the story.
It’s interesting to see mostly forgotten characters like Yukio, Steven Lang, Doug Ramsey, and Cameron Hodge all in the same issue. Shortly before this story was published, the “Child’s Play” crossover also reunited the surviving New Mutants and Hellions characters, plus Margali Szardos and Amanda Sefton began showing up in Excalibur during this time. The books seem to have a weird relationship with the older material, as Claremont’s interpretations of characters like Mystique and Magneto are twisted beyond recognition, but tons of obscure characters from his era keep showing up unexpectedly (not all of them his creations, but most are). Even the Phalanx themselves are an extrapolation of ideas Claremont introduced in New Mutants. Considering that the early post-Claremont issues killed over a dozen established characters in order to build up the new villains, it’s kind of odd to see so many forgotten characters brought back and treated as more than cannon fodder. The attitude seems to have gone from “let’s kill these old losers off” to “wasn’t that old stuff cool?”.